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London - When you’re faced with an unexplained medical problem, it can seem easier and quicker to go online for answers rather than wait for a doctor’s appointment.
But researchers have found that one in four British women have misdiagnosed themselves on the internet - then bought the wrong product to try to cure their illness.
“Dr Google” is now the first port of call for women with health concerns, but it rarely provides an accurate diagnosis, the experts say.
In fact, searching for symptoms online and self-medicating has led one in ten women to endure unpleasant side effects as a result of their misdiagnosis.
And almost half of women have diagnosed themselves online then bought a treatment on the high street without checking with pharmacists if it is the correct product.
The trend for trusting the internet over medical professionals or friends and family was highlighted in a survey of 1,000 women. A fifth had at some time wrongly suspected they had a serious disease.
The most common false alarm came over breast cancer, while many women had wrongly diagnosed themselves as having thrush, high blood pressure or asthma.
The symptoms most likely to prompt women to consult Dr Google were sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.
Three quarters of those polled said there were some health issues that they weren’t comfortable talking to friends and family about.
Half of women always tried to deal with embarrassing medical problems themselves before seeking help from others.
More than a quarter said they dreaded talking to doctors about such problems.
Because of waiting times, almost a third only visited the doctor as a last resort. Many women said they spent “days” worrying about symptoms before speaking to anyone, while a third had spent at least two weeks sweating over an ailment.
Remarkably, one in 20 women said they had spent several years worrying whether a symptom was something serious before eventually getting it checked out.
The research was commissioned by feminine health brand Balance Activ. Its spokesman, Penny McCormick, said: “There is an increasing trend towards using the internet to diagnose any irregularities or worries we have about our bodies.
“The web gives us a wealth of information that can be useful in reducing our worries until we’re able to gain proper advice from a medical authority, but the results show how easy it is to make mistakes when diagnosing ourselves.
“It’s important we learn which information to trust online and that we’re able to make the distinction between what can be self-diagnosed and easily treated, and what definitely requires the help of a medical professional.
“What can seem like a relatively harmless but embarrassing symptom could develop into something more serious, so it is important for women to ensure they are asking the right questions and treating certain conditions effectively.” - Daily Mail